Solopreneurs Need Vacation, Too! Here’s How to Prepare

Setting Up Shop

I don’t know about you, but when I took the leap to full-time freelance, one thing I was most looking forward to was having a flexible schedule and unlimited vacation. No more needing to count my vacation days or compromise my time off to “save” some more of those days for later in the year.

(In fact, even now, I’m cringing just thinking about all of that…)

Now, as a full-time solopreneur, I have the freedom to be a digital nomad and work from wherever I am. That said, it’s both a blessing and a curse when all you need is a laptop and reliable wifi to work. Because sometimes, even when we love our work, we still want to disconnect and take an honest vacation.

The key to being able to fully disconnect when you’re a one woman shop? Preparation. In this post, I’m going to share the steps I took to prepare my business for my absence as I embarked upon my first vacation as a full-time freelancer this summer.

1. Clients & Projects

I had many ongoing projects on deck, and communicated with each of my clients about my vacation and the fact that I would be entirely unreachable. I started doing this about two weeks ahead of time, but especially the week before. I told them we could finish beforehand if they didn’t want to wait, but many opted to just pause the project while I was gone. This worked better for both of us, because it didn’t cause us to rush their project.

On one larger project that started a month before, I made sure to tell them in our initial conversation that we would need to wrap up by a certain date.

I have just a few clients that I do monthly projects for -- blog post images, social media scheduling, etc. Knowing that they usually send me content during the time of the month that I would be on vacation, I contacted them ahead of time and informed them. Where I could, I worked ahead.

Pro tip: I use Wave for invoicing, which allows for recurring invoices. I don’t have to remember to send those monthly clients an invoice, which saved me a task before vacation!

2. Don’t Go Completely Dark

Although you will be disconnected, you don’t have to go dark online. Set up a simple auto responder in your inbox, so that those who email you won’t think you’re just ignoring them. If you plan to check in while you’re away, note the terms of that. (Ex: If you’re available for emergency situations, tell clients to put “Urgent” in the subject line.) For leads that might not visit your inbox and will only see your website, consider editing your contact page with a note that you’re out of town.

Your social channels don’t need to be neglected, either. Schedule out some social media posts, even if it’s less often than usual. Of course, a big part of social media is actually being social, and interacting with your audience. So, how do you handle that, if you’re disconnected? Well, that leads to me to Step 3…  

Pro tip: I use Edgar to schedule most of my social media posts, so it constantly recycles evergreen content. Saved me another task before vacation, because it’s always running!

3. Work with a VA

When I think about virtual assistants, I think about long-term projects, like scheduling social media every week. But, just like people can hire me (a designer) for one-off projects, you can hire a VA to monitor your inbox while you’re away. That’s exactly what I did. I prepped a VA (in my case, Jordan of Practically Magic VA) to “watch” my inbox for any critical emails.

You could also have your VA watch your social media channels. I didn’t do that this time around, but I most certainly will next time. I had scheduled social media posts for the few days I was going to be gone. What I didn’t realize is that one link I tweeted was broken (the person’s site was 100% down), and someone replied to my tweet to tell me it wasn’t going anywhere. The tweet went unanswered for two days -- not good!

Pro tip: I didn’t just tell my VA to copy and paste my auto responder message to any new contact form submissions. I drafted a more detailed response, and sent her my welcome package that she could send along with it to new inquiries.

Now… take that vacation!

It takes a little prep work, and a lot of communication with your clients, to get your biz in a good place while the CEO takes some vacation -- but when you can fully disconnect without worrying about what’s going on in your biz, it’s entirely worth it.

Tell me, One Woman Shops, what else do you do to prepare for vacation?

Weekly Finds

Weekly Finds for the SolopreneurWelcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds - where we scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we think will help your solopreneur business — and maybe even your life!

Have a personal project that keeps getting pushed to the side? Yup. That's why Ash Ambirge's recent post, "The Answer To: Where Do You Get the TIME?!" hits home -- and we bet it will for you, too. Don't forget to be your own client.

Stop blogging to the sound of crickets. (It happens.) Ciera Holzenthal of Ciera Design Studio took her five years of blogging experience and created a step-by-step guide to writing irresistible blog posts and creating share-worthy content, just for you.

Summer can be... distracting. So sometimes striking creativity gold requires a little extra effort. This post from Fast Company offers 10 ways to hone your creativity on a daily basis. (We like a combination of #1, get up early + #7, take a nap.)

If garnering PR for your solo business is an elusive concept, you're not alone. Fortunately, Tiffany Silverberg wants to help you tell your brand story so that the media pays attention. Check out her DIY PR resources to get started!

Productivity + project management tools are fun to try, but can be a massive time suck. So we love it when fellow business owners show us how they put them into practice, like Katelyn James does in her "How Creatives Can Utilize Trello" video.

If you've been in the blogosphere for some time now, you most likely know Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes. But did you know you could borrow her 12,000 daily readers + 7 years of blogging experience to make your online space "prettier, more profitable, more popular?" Check out her Secret Weapon.

Lately, we've been all about systems + streamlining here at One Woman Shop, so that you can make the most of your time as a solopreneur. So we love this post from Marie Poulin on designing your ideal week -- especially this thought: "structure enables flexibility."

4 Tips for Revamping Your Contracts and Protecting Your Business as a Solopreneur

Setting Up Shop

I despise the me-versus-you mindset that colors some client relationships. This mentality creates an unhealthy situation where the creative is just trying to get paid, and the client is grasping for the most bang for their buck. Of course, clients can be forgiven for wanting the best possible product for their lives and businesses, and creatives gotta eat. We’re all human. But still, this dynamic isn’t pleasant and I strive to avoid it wherever possible.

I’ve found that a clear, concise and no-nonsense contract is one of the best ways to keep a working relationship on the rails and über-friendly. It removes the stress of wondering what’s included or expected, reduces the possibility of anyone taking advantage, and provides a third-party enforcer of the terms so no one has to be the bad guy. It’s a nonpartisan ally we can all call to our aid, but only if we’re careful in its design and construction.

The beauty of a client-based business is that it evolves as time goes on -- and so must your contracts. Here are some of the crucial tips I’ve learned over the years about crafting a contract, that you can take into account when creating yours:

1. Make financial commitments and timeframes clear

I’ve never actually had a problem getting paid, but I have had to wait longer than I’d like. And you hear about fellow solopreneurs getting stiffed all the time. Truthfully, there’s no iron-clad way to prevent this, because no creative worth her salt is going to demand full payment before beginning a project. It’s unprofessional, it’s mistrustful and it’s just not done.

I do, however, take steps to try and streamline the payment process and increase the chances of getting that final check. For one thing, I always include in my contract the number of revisions I provide for the stated price. That way, if a client asks for more (than two, in my case), I can point to the contract. I also include what additional revisions cost, so that we have an already-agreed-upon way to proceed if necessary.

Furthermore, I clarify timeframes for various steps of the process -- i.e. deposits due at the beginning and final delivery of materials. Some clients are impatient, or will “forget” what you agreed to, so it’s great to have this in writing. Plus, it covers your derriere. While I’ve never gotten litigious with a client, you best believe I want the ability if I need it.

2. Remember that contracts are not intuitive to clients

With the explosion of the digital age, we sign contracts all the time. Every time you check that little box for another app or website sign up, it’s a contract. Because of this, many of us are used to breezing through and signing on the dotted line. Don’t let your clients do that, or you might be sorry.

I’ve learned the hard way that a contract is only as clear as the words you put right up top. For instance, I sometimes do design work, and once worked with one client while I was still in launch stage and working at quarter-priced rates in order to fill out my portfolio. Despite this, she thought she was getting top-quality pro work, the kind she’d receive from a 10-year veteran. When I requested understanding for my newbie status, she did not grant it.

In this case, it needed to be in my contract that I was starting my business, streamlining my process and not promising the same quality she would have gotten from an established creative charging four times as much (if not more). And once you put the terms in your contract, be sure to discuss them verbally.

3. Limit scope creep like a boss

Scope creep happens. All the time. Recently, another one of my clients sent me a job for 1,000 words. When I returned it to them, they told me they were happy with my work, and went on to insert it into a larger piece they were working on. They then emailed me all 11,000 words of their full project and asked me to edit for consistency… you know, since I’d been the one to write a small piece of it.

Um, no.

Even if you dutifully note the number of revisions you offer, as suggested above, clients will still try to take advantage by asking for “small fixes” or “just one more thing,” forgetting to include vital information up front and wanting you to include it later on. Or -- as my client did -- just wildly overestimating your willingness to help for free.

This is why it’s important to have a line in your contract stating how much you charge for continuation of work. Something along the lines of, “for revisions past two rounds, or additional work beyond the scope of the project, I charge $XYZ.”

4. Clarify incentives up front

Let’s be real about incentives: they’re not necessarily that great for you. If they bring in more business? Well, awesome. But sometimes all they are is a discount for work you would have gotten anyway, without benefiting you or your business in any real way. So... be careful.

If you offer incentives, stick to the terms. Honor them if a client is really buying two things for a 2-for-1 deal, and tell them to stick it if they ask for half-off one thing. Don’t play ball with old clients who want the new client sign-up discounts; it’s not for them. If you really like someone, you can consider it, but respectfully request that they don’t tell others. This goes for working at reduced rates for friends and family, who need to understand that as a businesswoman your goal is to charge much more than that when you work for others.

Use your contract as your new best friend

Working with clients can be a challenge. We’re all set in our own ways, opinionated, and looking out for Number One. A good contract, though, can create a team out of what might in other scenarios become two opposed parties. I believe strongly in its power to bind and build a bond through mutual understanding, and I hope you can one day feel the same.

What other situations have come up that have taught you important lessons about what to include in your contracts, fellow solopreneurs?

P.S. Want more information on effective contracts? Check out Small Business Bodyguard for the legal perspective and Stress Less & Impress for the process/workflow side of things!

How to Experiment with Location Independence as a Solopreneur

It's Location Independence Month on One Woman Shop!

Imagine waking up to the sound of exotic birds, throwing on a sundress and walking out of your condo straight onto a gorgeous beach. It’s early morning and the only people up yet are the fishermen coming back in with their catch. You yawn, put on your flip flops, grab your bag and head over to the local coffee shop.

In fact, this is the only coffee shop on this tropical island that has a steady wifi connection, and you’re now a regular. From your spot in the corner you are totally rocking your business, working with clients from all over the world.

When the work for the day is done, you wrap up, head back to your cabin, leave your laptop and go for a swim. Other days you head over to the local market, meet up with your friends at the beach bar, head to a yoga class or take the boat back into the mainland to explore the nearby towns.

Then, when you’re starting to feel an inkling to move on, you pack up your backpack, say goodbye to your friends and board the next bus. Somewhere, a new exciting place is waiting for you. A new culture, a new coffee shop, a new group of friends.

A new life.

Does it sound like a dream?

It doesn’t have to be.

If you feel like the thought of becoming location independent is alluring, but scary – let me show you how you can make it happen -- while at the same time limiting risk, fear, and overwhelm.

Experiment your way to freedom

Treat it as a science project

The thing is, you can’t really fail at an experiment. You can only learn and improve. This takes the pressure off! Start by thinking about location independence as if you were a scientist crafting out a research project. What is your hypothesis? How long will you need to experiment for before you can conclude? How much can you scale down while still getting valid results?

Change your mindset

Repeat after me: I. am. not. on. vacation. Say it again: I am not on vacation! This shift in thinking is the most important thing you can do to succeed at location independence. Don’t plan your trip as if you were planning a vacation. In other words: unless you are already swimming in money, stop yourself before you start to imagine your last vacation, just indefinitely. Instead, try to imagine living the same kind of life you are already living now, or even less fancy. It will make the financial side of things much less overwhelming to plan out. Also, stop yourself before you imagine sleeping in, chilling out all day or exploring your new place for hours on end. As a location-independent business owner, you still put in the normal work hours, if not more.

Keep it open

Find a way to experiment with location independence without having to move, cancel your cable or give away your cat. Your regular life is your safety net, and the more you can keep it as normal while you experiment, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel. If you can’t afford to pay double rent, rent out your home or experiment with leaving on multiple shorter trips.

Start small, but not too small

As a scientist planning out the best way to conduct an experiment, you have to figure out the best way to plan everything to increase your chances of getting the right results. This means to find the balance between how long you can take time off from home and how long you need to stay to be able to focus on your work. If your trip is too short, you may not have enough time to really get into the flow – as the first days/weeks in a new place tend to get taken over by excitement and wanderlust. However, if you plan to stay too long, your planning and taking care of everything at home could be much more difficult to navigate.

Go to a place you’ve been before

For your very first experiment with location independence, visit a place you have been before. This way, you’ll be able to experiment and focus on your work without being distracted by a new, overwhelming and exciting place. Anything you can do to “lower the bar” will make your experiment more likely to happen!

Location independence is within reach

Location independence doesn’t have to stay this thing you dream about, but never make happen. By experimenting and starting small, you can overcome the overwhelm and create the lifestyle that you have always dreamed of.

If you were location independent right now, where would you go?

Digital nomad and location independence resources

It’s One Woman Shop’s Anniversary: Help Us Pay It Forward!

One Woman Shop idea anniversary

Call it our anniversary; call it our birthday -- whatever you name it, it’s a celebration! You see, two years ago on this day, the idea of One Woman Shop popped into Cristina’s head -- and thus the beginning of this resource hub and community. Though the site itself didn’t launch until two months later, this day shall forever go down as the biziversary! (Cue the bubbly + pass the chocolate!)

Since that day, One Woman Shop has grown (more on that shortly), and in the process, we have been incredibly grateful to work with a plethora of women starting, growing, and rocking their solo businesses. To celebrate that gratitude, we thought -- what better than to pay it forward? But, we need your help. Here’s what we’ve got in store:

And for our members, here’s what we’ve got planned:

  • We’re encouraging members to contribute to the One Woman Shop Kiva lending team -- by re-investing profits from their solo businesses into Kiva, they can help carry the mission of One Woman Shop forward. (Want to join our lending team, too? Everyone’s welcome!)
  • We’re asking members to support each other through a Rainy Day Circle -- each participant writes something supportive about each other participant and, in turn, receives kind words from all others. The end result? A bustling Rainy Day File!
  • We’re facilitating a skill swap exchange -- each member can both offer an hour of their time to another member, as well as claim an hour of another member’s time to help propel their business forward.

The fun doesn’t end there! A big part of our goal in seeing One Woman Shop grow is to continue paying it forward. We’ve got some big things coming in the next few months (hint: a killer solopreneur bundle!) where we’ll see our Kiva team expand even more.

Speaking of growth, we want to take a minute to highlight the last year of One Woman Shop happenings (an annual review of sorts, a la member Jess Lawlor). Here’s what we’re celebrating:

  • Forming an official partnership: we share all of the details in this post (including how we’ve never met in person!), but suffice it to say that forming an official partnership between us (Cristina + Sara) was the single biggest factor that contributed to our growth over the past year. Love your solo business but want to dabble in creative collaborations? Check out the recap from our #OWSchat about partnerships and collaborations!
  • Transitioning from pay-what-it’s-worth to tiered membership: taking away our pay-what-it’s-worth membership option was a tough choice, but it was ultimately for the best. We detail the reasoning behind our changes in membership here, but in summary: we decided on the current prices to keep it affordable for you and sustainable for us as we build out truly valuable membership offerings. Also, we got to use fun names for the different tiers that cater to our love of caffeine: Coffee and Espresso.
  • Hitting the 50-member mark: it’s certainly not all about numbers, but 50 members was a fun milestone to reach. We love seeing how engaged and supportive our members are of each other and have been incredibly happy to see some awesome member collaborations come to life.
  • Shipping: With the help of some epic Jam Sessions (more on that below), wine, popcorn, and chocolate, we managed to ship several big projects, like our 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs List, our e-course on solopreneur finances created in collaboration with Carrie Smith, our first-ever behind-the-scenes Instagram challenge, and our Building Your Online Community e-course. Each launch makes us even more excited for the next! (Spoiler alert: we’ve got an epic bundle launch coming soon!)
  • Working with Espresso-level members: While we enjoy working with all of our members equally (seriously, as OWS “moms”, we don’t pick favorites!), we have had so much fun kicking off individual coaching and facilitating the accountability group for Espresso-level members. We’ve seen an amazing support system be built in the accountability group, and following her first coaching session, one member gushed, “I can already tell this will be one of the best decisions I've made for my business!” Needless to say, we blush. A lot.
  • Instituting legendary Jam Sessions: While we’ve learned quite a bit this year, this one’s for certain: when in doubt, schedule a Jam Session. Starting as a monthly, half-day check-in for us in February, we now regularly schedule Jam Sessions to, quite simply, get shit done. And that we do.
  • Hosting events + collaborating with fellow solopreneurs: Our calendar fills up fast -- with our monthly #OWSchat, One Woman Shop Chats With… Live, and member events like Dreaded Task Night and Rise + Shine Coworking -- but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We thrive on interacting with our members as well as the larger One Woman Shop community, and are so grateful for the amazing guests we’ve had for #OWSchat and OWS Chats With… Live. Giving a direct line to fellow solopreneurs for our One Woman Shops to learn from has been fantastic -- and we always end up incredibly inspired, as well!
  • Instagram: Yup, this deserves its own mention. While we will always love Twitter for networking and have a special place in our hearts for Facebook Groups, our love of Instagram has especially grown over the last year. The Instagram Baton has exploded with solo business owners giving us a behind-the-scenes of their days, and our first Instagram challenge proved to be an awesome 12-day stint. Sara’s thanking her lucky stars each and every day that Cristina became a convert.

We seriously have so much to celebrate. When we look back at the year, it’s so much fun to think about the Zumba breaks during Jam Sessions, the virtual freak outs over Mashable mentions, and the rough look of our faces at midnight when we’re putting the final touches on a project ready to ship the next morning.

But we know all of this wouldn’t be possible without our amazing community -- you. So thank you, One Woman Shops, for being here -- and know that we will continue to pay our gratitude forward as time goes on.

Cheers!

Establishing Wholesale Relationships as a Solopreneur

wholesale relationships

Just because you’re a One Woman Shop doesn’t mean there are limits to the scale at which you can produce and sell -- are we right? In fact, we believe the potential extends further, as you naturally incur less overhead and own the decision-making power. (#girlboss) So when one of our members posted in the private Facebook group about setting up wholesale relationships, we took to our network and checked in with three business owners with wholesale experience to give us the ins and outs and help you get started. Here’s what Amanda Wright of Wit and Whistle, Mei Pak of Creative Hive, and Jennifer Hill of JHill Design had to say:

Tell us a bit about your current wholesale relationships and how they tie into the rest of your business.

Amanda: I’ve been super lucky with wholesale. As Wit & Whistle has organically grown, the retailers have come to me! Over the years I’ve maintained a strongly branded, active presence on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and my own blog/website. This tangled web of Wit & Whistle has snagged many retailers browsing the internet for products to sell. A lot of retailers turn to Etsy when looking for potential vendors, so maintaining a retail shop there has been a great resource, too. Etsy Wholesale is fairly new, but it has already been a wonderful way for me to connect with new wholesalers. If you’re serious about wholesale, it’s important to have your own gorgeous, professional-looking website to build your credibility. Make sure there’s an easy to spot “wholesale” page that includes a link to your catalog and any other information a retailer might need to get in touch with you and place an order.

Mei: My jewelry business, Tiny Hands, currently sells in over 100 stores across the United States. Most of the stores I sell to are smaller gift shops so I have the opportunity to get to know the shop owners well. In the first two years of taking on wholesale, my business quickly grew to multiple six-figure sales. Half of that can be attributed to wholesale, so it has definitely played a major role in my business. I love being able to diversify my income streams. When it's a slow month for online retail sales, I can count on wholesale orders to pick up. It's been great for stability and has even helped grow my retail sales because I have a wider reach in the market and more people have seen my brand!

Jennifer: Wholesale is a small part of our business. Our main piece is direct-to-consumer via our website. But we are always working to grow our wholesale business.

What is your best advice for first establishing contact with potential wholesalers? Do you recommend stopping in to the store, calling, reaching out via email, or something else?

Mei: First and foremost, check the store's website if they have product submission guidelines. If not, then always email a store instead of walking in. If you can't find an appropriate email contact, then your best bet is to call the store to ask. The majority of stores prefer being pitched to by email. It doesn't put them on the spot, and it gives them time to check out your line. It also helps them keep organized with the dozens, if not hundreds of product pitches they receive every week.

If you want to take it a step further, try to establish a connection with the store owners or buyers on social media before you send them an email. That way, they'll be familiar with who you are and more receptive of your email pitch.

Jennifer: Knowing many store owners, I always think it is best to email first. They are so busy and rarely have the time to review a product at the drop of a dime. Make the email personable, showing that you have researched the store. You may want to mention display ideas so the retailer can begin to picture your goods in their shop.

What makes for a great wholesale relationship?

Amanda: Openness and honesty. I appreciate it so much when my retailers give me feedback on how I can improve my goods and ideas for new products. It’s important to keep in touch with your wholesalers throughout the year, and update them about new collections. This year I’m hoping to print a beautiful Wit & Whistle lookbook to mail out and start sending occasional email newsletters.

Mei: You are all on the same side -- you want the store to sell your products well and as a result, they'll make more orders with you. So make it easy for them. Ship your orders when you say you will. Package your products so they grab a customer's attention. Offer marketing support to your store's retail staff. You can educate them on your product's background to help them talk about and sell your work. Offer to exchange items that aren't selling for ones that are. Follow up with them to check in on sales. This will all help a store feel taken care of and will make for a great relationship.

Jennifer: Stay in touch and promote them! We always give a shout out on social media when we send a new shipment to our retailers. When we open a new account we send an email blast to our customers in the new store's area letting them know they can get our goods in person. We also reach out to local press.

What's one thing that you never thought of prior to establishing a wholesale relationship that you've since learned from?

Amanda: It took me a while to grasp that there are different packaging needs when selling wholesale. When a retail customer orders from my website, they get a complete product description on the page. When my products are for sale in stores, the packaging has to communicate everything the customer needs to know. For example, when I first started wholesaling, many of my greeting cards had messages printed inside, but I would package them in sealed cellophane sleeves. In store, customers had no clue what was printed inside the cards! I didn’t even think about it until one of my retailers asked if I could put stickers on the backs that disclosed the inside messages. Oops! My wholesale selling experience has mostly been trial and error, and sometimes I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing! I figure that’s probably normal. (At least I hope!)

Mei: It's important to create an irresistible package that makes your product easy to buy. When I started doing wholesale, I just thought having a catalog was all I needed. Later, I put together a package of my best-selling products along with a display rack, tailored to individual stores. That way, instead of just giving stores the option to mix-and-match products, I presented an easy “starter package” for the store that eased the decision-making burden on them and helped tremendously to push sales for me.

Jennifer: Be flexible on terms. Some of our big accounts only pay Net 30; some of our small accounts prefer to pay by bank wire transfer or credit card. We are happy to work with each one.

Have you ever had a wholesale relationship that didn't go well? What did you learn?

Amanda: I learned that when working with large, nationwide retailers I need to ask if I can read through their vendor manual before accepting any purchase orders (POs). This is especially important if the vendor doesn’t usually work with independent makers. Keeping up with some retailers’ vendor requirements is a full time job in and of itself. It’s difficult to follow hundreds of pages of requirements written for huge factories in Asia when you’re a one-woman operation working out of your suburban basement. Some retailers will even charge you expensive fees if you miss a single step (yes, I also learned that the hard way). Don’t be afraid of working with big retailers, just be vigilant and know what you’re getting into before you start.

Mei: There was one store that was so difficult to work with. They caused so much trouble and every email they sent was a headache to deal with. The last straw was when they tried to reorder way less than my minimum amount. I told them it wasn't enough for a reorder but in return they berated my work and threatened that they would buy products similar to mine from a different and cheaper source. At that point, I fired them and took back all of my products to end the relationship.

It's crucial that you sell to the right stores. Sometimes you won't know if it's a right fit until after the first order, so it's hard to avoid these kinds of mishaps. Stand by your product and your wholesale terms and policies. They are there for a reason. When you start bending the rules, some people may take advantage of you. It's okay to end a wholesale relationship. Some stores just don't work out.

Have you discovered any downsides of wholesaling? Anything potential wholesalers should be weary of?

Amanda: For me, the only downside to wholesaling has been that it’s more difficult to introduce new types of products. My goods are made in small batches, which means they cost more per piece to manufacture than if I were having them produced in massive quantities. When I get an idea for a new kind of product, I have to make sure I can produce it at a low enough cost that I can sell it at reasonable wholesale rates (50% off retail). At the same time, I have to keep my inventory at manageable levels, because I can only sell so much product, and only have so much storage room in my studio! It’s a tricky balance. I have some products that I just can’t sell to my wholesalers due to the tight profit margins.

Mei: Be sure you have your systems in place. Doing wholesale really tests your process of manufacturing your product in bulk to packaging and shipping them out in a timely manner. The leaks in your systems become apparent with wholesale because you're dealing with such large numbers compared to a retail order. Be aware of the time you'll need to spend managing stores as well as acquiring new ones and fulfilling orders. Get your systems down pat and you'll do great!

Jennifer: Putting together the orders can sometimes take more time than we expect, but in the end it is worth it. Also sending out cold emails to people can sometimes feel like a waste of time. That is one reason that we are looking more at trade shows.

Going forward, how much do you plan to keep wholesaling as part of your business?

Amanda: I hope the wholesale side of my business continues to grow like crazy.  It has been a great source of income for me, and it’s so satisfying to watch the list of retailers that carry Wit & Whistle goods get longer and longer!

Mei: I would love to keep wholesale and retail sales an even split. But the market and technology changes so quickly that not everything is within our control. So, I go wherever my business takes me. If wholesaling opportunities keep coming my way, I won't turn them down and if it so happens to become all of my business, I'll just need to adapt and hire more help!

Jennifer: We are hoping to start doing more wholesale in 2016 and begin the trade show circuit!

Thanks so much, ladies!

OWS readers: after the fantastic information shared by Amanda, Mei, and Jennifer, what other questions do you have about establishing wholesale relationships as a One Woman Shop? Tell us in the comments below!

7 Sales Tips for Online Entrepreneurs

The marketplace is full of competitors, which can be intimidating when you are starting out on your entrepreneurial journey. This is exactly why it is important to learn how to feel confident selling your products/services. Depending on your personality type, this may come easier for some than for others -- but every solopreneur has to be a saleswoman. So, why not get comfortable with it now and save yourself the headache later?

I have struggled in getting comfortable with everything from pitching, to selling, to pricing. But over time, I’ve learned a few key lessons that make sales more formulaic and less emotional. Here are my top 7 sales tips for online entrepreneurs:

1. Build trust with your audience.

Before you sell anything at all, you should build trust with your customers. Your customers can go anywhere for products, but why should they buy from you? Is your site personal? Are you transparent? Do you give value to your visitors? Or, are you throwing ads in your visitors’ faces as soon as they’re on your site, asking them to buy before they’ve had a chance to get to know you?

People buy because of a feeling more than anything. Give your customers reasons to like you, trust you, and want to buy from you before you even offer them anything. For example, if you send an email newsletter, connect with your subscribers by being open and transparent (like you would with your friends). Create a free, valuable opt-in -- perhaps a free checklist, template, or bundled advice. Find ways to create value without asking for money. After you build trust and your audience likes you and is connected, then you can offer them something for a price.

2. Get your visitors used to clicking links.

If you have a subscriber list, consider including links in your emails. This will get your readers used to clicking and will help them become more receptive to promotional links (a tip I learned from Dan Faggella in episode 159 of Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast). Again, keep in mind that you want to build trust first (the email shouldn’t open with an offer to buy your latest product if it’s the first email you’re sending someone).

Instead, draft emails to your subscribers that engage your readers, help them to get to know you, make them trust and like you, and then include links throughout the email to your work, including your latest product. The links can be in the middle of the page or toward the bottom, after you have engaged your readers. In fact, some will argue that you should include just one link in your email -- and that’s fine, too. The point is to get your visitors used to the idea of you providing stuff (some free; others for a price).

3. Use your analytics.

Decide where you want to sell your products by paying attention to your analytics. A good place to start is by looking at your page views. Where are most of your visitors going when they land on your site? If your visitors hang out on your resources page much more often than in your store, then it would be wise to include your products on your resources page.

For me, the most visited page (by far) on my personal finance blog is my store. I know this because of my analytics -- and it’s helped me optimize the page. It would be a shame if I had my products hidden on miscellaneous pages that didn’t make it clear to my visitors where they can spend their money.

Use your analytics (I use Google Webmaster Tools) to help you make intentional choices about where to place your products. For you, it might be a “Start Here” page, a “Work With Me” page, or something entirely different. Once you see trends in how your visitors navigate your site, you can learn how to better optimize it for sales.

4. Pay attention to your brand and your target customer when pricing.

Keep prices in line with your overall brand and your target customers. You pay more at Nordstrom than at Walmart -- but you expect it to be that way. Which brand are you, and are your prices in line with that? There is a market for both Walmart and Nordstrom – you just need to figure out which you are.

Consider your customers, specifically. What types of customers are you targeting? Are you targeting everyone? Females? Female nurses? Female nurses under the age of 30 who have expendable income? Pricing is about the marketplace and it’s about the customer – it is not about you. Be very thoughtful about who your products are best suited for. This will help you be strategic in your pricing and your marketing.

5. Do your market research.

Consider your competitors. Look around and compare what prices competitors are selling similar items for in your niche market. Doing this will give you an idea of what’s already out there and what things are selling for. You can adjust your prices accordingly, or you can completely ignore them if you want to. Generally, it’s smart to stay within what’s considered “market” for what you’re selling because that’s what people are paying, but you might have a good reason to go outside market prices.

For example, maybe all of the online courses that you see for sale include 7-12 modules and are selling for $300-$700. If you have a 20-module course with other extras, you may want to consider pricing your course at $1,000 even though that’s above market for what you’re selling. Regardless of what you decide to do with the information, it’s still better to have the market research and at the very least, have a starting point from which to work.

6. Offer packages with different price points.

Offer packages that give your customers options based on price. This is a lesson I heard on several Smart Passive Income podcast episodes and seems to be widely accepted. Bundle your product into three different priced options ($29.99, $59.99, and $89.99, for example). This allows people with smaller budgets to buy your product while it still gives you the opportunity to earn a lot more from -- and provide more value to -- the people who have more money to spend.

Most people end up buying the middle option (think about it – do you order the cheapest glass of wine on the menu or the second-to-last cheapest?). And quite often, businesses earn the most revenue from the highest-priced item. So, having three packages is a good way to maintain lots of customers and also increase your revenue.

7. Have confidence to sell.

Before you’re convinced that you’re Walmart, I urge you to consider whether you’re actually Walmart or whether you’re Nordstrom that just lacks confidence. It is scary selling products – especially in the beginning (and it is okay to feel this way). Instead of discounting yourself, take a step back and reevaluate your product.

Think about what you’re selling. Think about the value you’re providing to your customers. It’s really important to believe in what you’re selling or you shouldn’t be selling it at all. If you review what you’re selling and you know you are providing tremendous value to your customer, price what your product is worth and not any lower. There is no reason you shouldn’t price high if you’re providing high-end value to your customers.

Start selling, solopreneur

March on and have the confidence to sell, sell, sell. Confidence comes from putting yourself out there through trial, error, and revision -- but you’ll never know if you don’t first try. These steps will get you started. For more specific tactics on gaining confidence selling, I highly recommend To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink and Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cardone.

PS - One of the best ways to cultivate more sales? Building a loyal, engaged community.

This Monday: #BYOCommunity Twitter Power Hour!

Here at One Woman Shop, the energy is palpable (even though we’re running this show 5,100 miles apart from each other)!

You see, we are just three days away from launching our Building Your Online Community e-course. We can’t wait to get this baby in the hands of One Woman Shops everywhere so they can get to work building and strengthening the online communities that will boost their solo business.

To celebrate the launch -- and connect with you in one of our favorite ways -- we’re hosting a live #BYOCommunity Power Hour at 9pm EST on Monday, June 15th in the Twitter-sphere.

We’re taking questions beforehand (email us!) and will fill in extra time with live questions during the chat! Join in by following the #BYOCommunity hashtag on Twitter (we recommend TweetChat for first-timers!).

Can’t wait to chat soon!

In the meantime? Head on over to the Building Your Online Community landing page to sign up for an email when it goes live on Monday.

Building Your Online Community

Solopreneurs: Who Makes Up Your Online Community?

forming community as a solopreneur

In less than a week (eek!) we’re releasing the biggest thing since sliced bread 100 Best Sites to our community. It’s called Building Your Online Community -- or #BYOCommunity, for short -- and we’re pretty darn excited to share it with you.

Throughout many several-hour work (jam) sessions, we’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about what it takes to build a loyal, engaged, and rewarding online community as a solopreneur. During the e-course creation process, we’ve asked and answered a lot of questions. Questions like “why do I need an opt-in?” and “how do I pitch myself for interviews?” -- leading us to create 14 juicy weeks of content. But, really, it all started with one very straightforward question in the first place: just what is an online community when it comes to solopreneurship?

So, here’s our best attempt at answer it -- with one caveat in mind. Just like our philosophy that business isn’t one-size-fits-all, we know that there’s no one answer to this question -- and that’s what makes the prospect of building, nurturing, and expanding your online community so incredibly exciting.

Online community for the solopreneur

Taking a cue from Peanuts, here’s how we define your online community:

Your online community is… the clients you choose to work with.

Your online community is… the people who follow you on social media networks.

Your online community is… the people you follow on social media networks.

Your online community is… the readers of your blog.

Your online community is… the fellow solopreneurs you collaborate and partner with.

Your online community is… the influencers you look up to and the mentors who guide you.

Your online community is… the masterminds, accountabilibuddies, and business coaches who help you grow your business and keep you accountable.

Every solopreneur will have an online community made up of a different mix of people. While no two communities are the same, each is every bit as important to the journey of running a “solo” business.

When is online community important?

Building your online community is an ongoing process -- and one that is never too early or too late to get started. Here are some of the times having an online community will benefit you:

Before you’ve even “started.” Idea just in conception? Building an online community that can provide inspiration, feedback, and mentorship is crucial to getting past the analysis paralysis that holds you back when you’re just jumping in.

At your initial launch. Think you can’t launch your solopreneur biz with a bang? Think again. Having an online community built up from the beginning gives you people to turn to to help you spread the word before you even know where to spread it to.

As you’re initially growing. With each new product, service, or announcement, having an online community to solicit feedback from will provide endless opportunities to learn, as well as to keep you on the right track.

When you’re stuck. Every solopreneur comes to a sticking point. It’s at this time that you’ll find yourself most grateful that you didn’t build your business in a silo -- because it’s your online community that will pick you up and motivate you to come out your funk and get back to serving.

As you’re leveling up. Solopreneurs grow and learn… fast. As you continuously take your business to the next level, it’s crucial to have your online community following, supporting, and pushing you.

Building your online community is an ongoing process

It’s true: building your online community never really ends. Don’t let that thought overwhelm you, though. Let it energize you and give you the tenacity you need to put yourself out there, attracting the community that fits your business best.

Remember: your online community is there both for you to serve and to learn from. It’s the people in your corner on this road to solopreneurship.

#BYOCommunity: coming soon!

Now that that question is answered, we’re bet you’re wondering where to get started. Well, we’ve got some good news for you: our latest e-course, Building Your Online Community, launches in less than one week. Be the first to know by signing up for our mailing list, or become a member today for instant access to ecourses of your choice.

We can’t wait to see you grow the online community that’s going to boost your solo business!

Building Your Online Community

One Woman Shop Member Spotlight: Brittany Stoess

Brittany Stoess

Welcome to our One Woman Shop Member Spotlight series, where we highlight what's going on in the businesses and lives of One Woman Shop members. Interested in joining this ambitious group of go-getters? Apply today!

Today's Spotlight is on Brittany Stoess, graphic designer and store owner at Adventure & the Wild.

Tell us about yourself and your business - what do you do + who do you serve?

My name is Brittany Stoess. I run Adventure & the Wild, a graphic design and lettering service. My focus is on nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals who are taking risks and creating real change in the community around them. I offer several brand identity packages (logo, blog/website design, print materials, etc.) as well as custom work for individuals and special events. I also run a shop where I sell art prints of my designs!

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

Instagram! My business is very visual, so Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase my work as well as my life, which has led me to several client opportunities. Plus, it makes me appreciate how insanely talented + creative people are! I am constantly inspired by the content I see in the Instagram community.

If you had to describe yourself or your business in one word, what would it be?

Adventurous. My business name is no accident 😉 Here’s the thing: I believe that everyone is living out their own adventure. Whether that is in business, a nonprofit, or a personal venture, we are all doing hard things. We’re taking risks, creating change, and exploring new territory. We’re all figuring this out as we go.

Adventure & the Wild is a design service, absolutely. That’s what I do. But more than that, I want it to be a place you can find encouragement and support for whatever adventure you’re on. I don’t want to just provide a one-time service; I want to develop a long-lasting relationship and work with you to create something incredible. You are doing amazing things; I’m here to provide the visuals to express that.

What is the #1 lesson you've learned since being in business on your own?

Doing the work takes time. I know that seems mind-numbingly obvious, but recognizing and accepting that has made all the difference for me. Design can be really, really tedious work. I tend to underestimate how long things will take to complete, so when what I assume will take 30 minutes ends up taking 2 hours, I start feeling very down on myself and overwhelmed, which in turn makes me want to shut down completely. When I finally realized that no, I’m not totally incompetent -- that it’s normal to take this much time -- it was like a breath of fresh air.

How has running a business changed you?

Starting a business is intimidating. It forces you to stretch yourself and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve learned to take a lot more risks. Pushing myself to go for it, even when I’m not feeling particularly brave, has made me much more confident. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I am now more likely to acknowledge the fear, and then keep pushing past it and doing the scary things anyway.

Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!

I recently revamped my brand identity packages, and am super excited about them! I love working with businesses/individuals to create a visual brand that accurately conveys their mission + who they are. I have several options + price points to choose from, so if your brand needs a little refreshing, let’s chat! Find out more info at adventureandthewild.com/services.

Also! I launched a print shop last month, and am offering OWS readers a 10% discount through the end of May! Use code OWS10 at checkout.

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Brittany!